Rollerblade Racer (NES) review
"So you're racing like your pants are on fire, you have no idea what's up ahead, and it's probably going to trip you up and leave you in a heap on the street. As a matter of fact, the best strategy seems to hang around near the middle of the screen, flying forward as quickly as you can, mashing the 'A' button repeatedly so that even if you land on the edge of a dangerous object, you'll be airborne again before the game realizes what just happened."
When I was a child, the pages of Nintendo Power got me interested in a lot of games I otherwise wouldn't have known existed. One such game was Rollerblade Racer. I recall seeing one or two screenshots and thinking to myself ''Wow, that looks like Paperboy!'' And since it looked like a game I happened to love, I knew Rollerblade Racer was for me.
Fortunately, I wasn't able to find the title for years and years, until I saw it sitting on a store shelf in a used games shop. I spent a few bucks and the game was mine. I was elated. Not only did I take home a game that surely was one of the truest of the 'hidden gems,' but I also did so at a price that would make even a Scottish fellow grin. Sound logic, I figured. Well, yes. Except for one thing: the game sucks.
Although to a certain extent Rollerblade Racer does look like Paperboy (both employ an isometric perspective wherein you begin near the lower left side of the screen and race as it scrolls toward the upper right) that's where the similarities between the two end. You're not riding a bike to deliver papers. Instead, you're riding your brand new pair of rollerblades, and you hope to survive long enough to reach the big competition someone's holding in the park. Also, instead of being a thirty-something like the people featured on the game's cover art, you're a little boy with knee pads.
Play the game for long and one thing becomes painfully obvious: it has no depth. Imagine going through a game of Paperboy without papers or any requirement that you deliver the mail. Instead, all you do is avoid hazards and repeat. That, in a nutshell, is Rollerblade Racer. Your sole goal is to avoid hazards long enough to reach the end, where your score is tallied and you advance to the next level. Between each, there's a bonus game where you try and avoid cones or barrels or the edge of half pipes. Yawn. I definitely wish there were something more to do, windows to smash and girls to douse with water. Alas, there is not.
Which leaves us with the levels themselves. If the game's only purpose is to navigate a series of hazards, they must be remarkable, no? No. The main things you must avoid are cracks in the pavement, manholes, and dogs. Assorted other hazards such as frisbees and puddles of water make an appearance, but they're hardly worth noting. There in fact isn't a whole lot of variety at all in this game.
Still, one might argue that Paperboy didn't present much of anything unique, either. And that person would of course be right. But at least in that other game, you could have fun. Here you can't, thanks to the fact that you can't really see much of anything coming. The view is too close to the action, and you're perpetually halfway up the street if you're moving at a good clip at all (which is of course the only way to build a sufficient score). So you're racing like your pants are on fire, you have no idea what's up ahead, and it's probably going to trip you up and leave you in a heap on the street. As a matter of fact, the best strategy seems to hang around near the middle of the screen, flying forward as quickly as you can, mashing the 'A' button repeatedly so that even if you land on the edge of a dangerous object, you'll be airborne again before the game realizes what just happened.
The sad thing is that the strategy I described above will safely carry you through around three fourths of this extremely short game. Then you'll finally have taken enough falls that the game will tell you it's 'Game Over,' and you'll be started over from the very beginning. In essence, Rollerblade Racer is no more than a game of random luck and lightning-fast reflexes, mixed in no particular fashion.
Still, there are a few things to like about the game, even though they hardly matter in the grand scheme of things. First, there's play control. When he is moving at more than a crawl, the boy you control responds fairly well to your commands. It can be frustrating if you've just fallen and are trying to regain your speed, but otherwise I can't really complain about responsiveness or anything like that.
Then there are graphics and sound to consider. While sound is limited only to a series of beeps and bloops that will likely drive you insane, the visual presentation is actually quite nice. The colors were chosen carefully, so that the skater wears bright orange and black, the grass to the side of the road is green, the bricks red, and so forth. Nothing really blurs together, and everything is drawn clearly enough that you can tell what it is you're skating past. Also, there's fair variety from one stage to the next so that they never look quite the same. The beach is a favorite level of mine, as it represents a radical enough departure from the other areas that I can't very well blame the artists for this game's suckiness.
Still, it's hard to play so wretched a project as Rollerblade Racer without pointing an accusatory finger at someone, and so I choose to gripe about whoever it is that decided the game was good enough to ship. Rollerblade Racer suffers from some severe design flaws that combine to make it practically unplayable. You don't 'play' it at all, in fact; you survive it like you might a trip to the dentist and then feel glad when you lean over and turn off your NES. Take this reviewer's advice and avoid it like the plague.
Staff review by Jason Venter (May 15, 2004)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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